This post may contain affiliate links. You may feel free to use them or not use them. It costs you no extra, but I make a small commission. (Please see my/our full disclosure for further information.)
If you work with children with autism, you probably are often trying to find ways to scaffold typical books that they can read. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins is a great book for children with autism or special needs to read. It is engaging, teaches great vocabulary, and has lots of emotional nuances for your students to practice inference making with. In this post, we’re going to go over my tips and tricks for scaffolding a Gregor the Overlander Novel Study.
Suzanne Collins breaks brains, and I love her.
My junior year of college was rough because I had a million classes and was student teaching most of the time. Plus I had OCD that was not being treated and was steadily getting worse.
For more on teaching with OCD click here.
Then came winter break and my sister made me watch the first Hunger Games movie. Twenty minutes in, I was no longer the same person.
I made my sister drive me to see the second movie. It was not enough. I made her take me again. Then I bought books one through two and read them in two days. I couldn’t find the third one because it was sold out. My solution to this problem was to “borrow” my father’s e-reader, purchase it, and read it very quickly.
So Suzanne Collins broke my brain.
I then read her Gregor series, fell in love with it, and of course, I tried to share it with my students. Only because they were too young for the Hunger Games.
They fell in love with it as well, but the problem was, it was my first time trying to scaffold a chapter book like Gregor. I did it very ad hoc and was lucky it turned out so well.
I have learned a lot since then, and I’m going to share my tips and tricks for scaffolding a novel study for Gregor the Overlander.
Of course, this can be applied to any middle-grade chapter book.
Need a Freebie?
If you are a one-on-one special education teacher or interventionist, make sure to join my email list! I’ll keep you up to date on my latest products and posts, all of which will help you teach children with autism better.
You’ll also get access to my free resource library, which is full of printable resources for your students.
This also includes one of my vocabulary crosswords for Gregor the Overlander!
Where to Start?
The first thing you have to do is establish what you’re student’s level is. When you’re highly specialized as a teacher, all of your students can be a wide variety of levels, and not just in reading.
Some of my students are able to understand everything I say, but unable to communicate without assistive devices and are unused to answering questions.
These students often require choices.
Other times I have students that are almost completely verbal but have a hard time processing language.
They might need a combination of sentence starters and choices and questions that mostly focus on comprehension.
So think about your students and what skills they already have and what skills you want them to develop in this novel study.
Decide on Your Scaffold Level
I normally go with three different levels of scaffold.
The first is choices. All questions, including vocabulary and comprehension questions or inference making, are presented with 1-6 choices depending on the complexity of the question and the student’s capabilities.
This is a great level for your students who are learning to communicate or are new to reading chapter books.
The second level is sentence starters or fill-in-the-blank. This is a great stepping stone that is good for your more verbal students with autism or the ones who are already familiar with their communication devices.
At this level, you’re starting to focus more on academic skills and less on comprehension and reading.
The last level is free response, or no scaffold, at least on the paper. At this level, I still recommend giving them scaffolds and support, whether it’s finding evidence, asking them to reread it, and then make an inference. Or giving them prompts by getting things clearly wrong in a funny way.
I often find that gets them going and writing independently when they’re stuck.
Sometimes your students will need these levels mixed and matched, depending on their needs and individual case.
You can purchase my premade Gregor the Underlander Novel Study Bundle! It includes vocabulary crosswords, answer keys, and a vocabulary assessment.
Purchasing the bundle will allow you to mix and match based on your student’s needs and reusable from case to case.
Decide on Your format
Some students don’t respond well to worksheets, but if you’re hoping to get them used to a more typical school experience then I recommend going with worksheets.
You can also create other kinds of activities tailor-made for your kiddos.
A great example is once when I was working on character traits with a non-verbal student, I put up pictures or drawings of each of the characters around his workspace.
I would hand him slips of paper with traits that could apply to one or more characters. He would tape the trait on the character that he considered to best exemplify that trait.
You can do a similar activity by making a large timeline with events from the book and having your student put them in order.
I like to do a blend of more physical up and moving activities combined with worksheets, so my students get used to worksheets, while also having more variety.
A lot of my kids were also working on fine motor skills when we read Gregor. We did a lot of crafts about the different animals in the book.
I traced images of bats for us to cut out and hang from the walls. We made spiders out of dixie cups and pipe cleaners.
I had to get creative when it came to rats because those are not popular cute animals for children. I believe for the rats, I might have resorted to paper mouses. We just called them rats.
Also, it’s confession time. I skipped cockroaches. They’re disgusting and horrible. I know this because I live in the city.
Feel free to look into crafts for cockroaches though, if you have a stronger stomach than me. I believe in you!
The bottom line is though, including crafts lets your students work on fine motor skills and following directions. Plus they’re fun, and they keep your students engaged.
Also, I work with kids who forget things easily, and having physical reminders of the different animals around their workspace, helped their recall for the story.
Don’t Forget Vocabulary
There is nothing quite as satisfying as when one of your students uses a vocabulary word you worked so hard to help them learn.
I like doing crosswords and flashcards for vocabulary words.
I make them myself to keep the definitions simple and understandable for my kids with processing disorders.
My free resource library does include a free vocabulary crossword puzzle for Gregor.
Other great ways to work on vocabulary include matching games, word searches, and bingo!
Make sure to pick a game and method that works for your students and will help them remember the words and the definitions.
Don’t forget to include activities that encourage them to use the word in a sentence, if they’re able.
You can also purchase my Gregor the Overlander Novel Study Bundle, with pre-scaffolded worksheets and vocabulary crosswords.
Scaffolding Gregor the Overlander can be a lot of hard work and prep for teachers. However, it is very worth it because it will give your students the chance to read books their typically developing peers read and enjoy.
Also as we established, I love Suzanne Collins, so in my opinion, they’ll get to read the work of the best author ever.
Make sure to include a variety of activities for students though, along with your worksheets. That way your students with autism will have more chances to demonstrate their knowledge through different mediums.
And don’t forget to join my email list to get access to my free resource library and a free Gregor the Overlander crossword puzzle.